Architecture + Design began in 1981. we started out with a home office with 2 employees, two drawing boards and a toddler learning to walk with the help of the handles on our flat files. Luckily we remained very busy and business grew.
In 1984 we went looking for a new home for our office. Our home studio needed to move out of our house and expand. Downtown Battle Creek was nearing the end of the life of what used to be a pedestrian mall for Michigan Avenue. Many retail stores had moved to the new Lakeview Square Mall and downtown Battle Creek was in a downward spiral.
We believed in our downtown. We wanted to be a part of a solution to the downward spiral. Historic Potter Block was waiting for us to discover it's sound structure and restore it to a more dignified presence on Michigan Avenue. The sidewalk had been roped off in front of the building so pedestrians could not be hurt by falling glass from the upper floors. It was full of pigeons who occasionally crashed into what few windows were still intact, as they made their frantic departure from the dark floors 3 stories up.
The 20,000 s.f. building had no tenants, but the pigeons, and demolition had begun on the Williams House Hotel next to Potter Block when we bought our building and stopped further demolition of the block. Interior clean up moved out pigeons, their families and many interiors walls that had filled the French Flats for operations as a brothel during the World Wars. Our research into the past of Potter Block uncovered some colorful history! We knew we found a sound building for our new home!
The Potter Block Hotel was originally built in 1875. As proclaimed in the stone on the cornice, "Burnt 1880, Rebuilt in 1880", the original building was destroyed after only five years, but was rebuilt again, in that same year. It was then built as French Flats above and commercial property at street level. It housed many different businesses through the years. A pharmacy, a bakery, doctor's office, antique store, not to mention the brothel on the upper levels as well.
It was time for a new chapter and in 1984, we rolled up our sleeves and began the journey of saving this historic structure that helped define the roots of our downtown. That act started a life saving transformation for the entire city block. For more than 35 years now, Architecture + Design has called Potter Block home. Not once did we ever regret our decision to tackle this building. We've learned so much from the hands-on experience. We continue to makes plans for further developments that will include more tenants and more positive results for a new downtown in Battle Creek.